"Just thinking about D-Day," the old man replied. I had noticed him walk into the coffee shop, his back hunched over almost parallel to the ground. He took his seat and immediately, almost choreographed, a barista greeted him with a cup of coffee, a donut, and the kind of smile that only makes sense for a regular.
"How are you today, Jack?" she had asked.
It was early June, and the man had to be in his eighties — these were more than enough reasons for me to ask more. So I pulled up a chair, and on an unsuspecting early morning, almost directly from where I am writing now, I became friends with a WWII veteran. His name was Jack.
Throughout the summer, before the kids' new school year started in August, I came every Friday morning and pulled back up a chair beside him. Jack told good stories, several of which I heard more than once. He was America's "greatest generation" right in front of me. He was a soldier. He was an educator. And he was old. He would not live much longer, even by the most generous estimates.
This was something I thought I knew until one morning, after not seeing him for a while, another regular at the coffee shop told me Jack had died. I was blindsided. I should've had a plan to find this out sooner. I should've anticipated this happening. But I didn't.
I didn't think about Jack dying because I rarely think about death. You probably don't either.